Those deans of women

Deans of Women and the Feminist Movement, by Kelly C. Sartorius, Palgrave MacMillan Press (Historical Studies in Education) St. Martin’s Press, 2014. Remember when every coeducational college or university had a “Dean of Women”? It was a powerful and influential position, at least for the “coeds” under her charge (and it was always “her”). The dean of women was expected to provide guidance, protection and support for “coeds,” when women were a minority among undergraduates. How things have changed.

The position no longer really exists and perhaps with reason. Now that the majority of undergraduate students are women, unplanned pregnancy no longer is as big an impediment for women to completing college, marriage is less an expectation, and women have many more educational and professional opportunities than previously, one might consider the position of “Dean of Women” an anachronism, an historical artifact no longer needed.

Indeed, women are now university presidents, academic deans and widely integrated into post-secondary education at all levels. But not so long ago, that was far from the case.

Until the 1970s, a dean of women was one of the very few professional roles for women in administration in post-secondary education, indeed in nearly all aspects of higher education. To get there and make any sort of difference in the lives of her charges, she had to be fierce. And foresighted.

As Kelly C. Sartorius writes in Deans of Women and the Feminist Movement, this (woman’s) position sometimes challenged itself and its charges. Until the feminist movement began on coeducational college campuses in the 1970s, female college students had, in many respects, only deans of women to shelter and protect them, to act in loco parentis, and if they were lucky, help them become strong individuals.

While some of these deans provided career counseling aimed at making their charges able to support themselves financially, should the often-anticipated “Mrs.” degree not materialize, much of their work was directed at caretaking and maintenance of female college students. But there were deans of women who looked out rather than in, and this is where Sartorius focuses her book.

By taking a close look at the life and career of a very activist dean of women at Kansas State University, Emily Taylor, the author presents the case that this “women’s profession” foreshadowed, indeed shaped, contemporary circumstances in higher education for women. It’s an interesting perspective. Could a dean of women who was something of an early if unspoken feminist—along with her dean colleagues at other colleges and universities—prepare, even shape themselves, their institutions and their students for the enormous social and political changes, feminism and changing expectations of and for women in particular, that many now take for granted?

Kelly Sartorius is herself a good example of the influence of those activist deans of women such as Emily Taylor—women who worked within the establishment toward and with the deep and broad social changes that started only four decades ago. While working as a university administrator (in development), Sartorius earned a doctorate in history; this book is based on her dissertation.

The book itself is a nice combination of well-researched, thoughtful historical perspective, and interesting reading. (For example, how did public universities and their female students shape antiwar activism, racial issues and radical feminism?) More importantly, it is documentation of how the then-few professional women in higher education accommodated or, as Sartorius argues, enabled changes in higher education that expanded the personal, social and professional development of young women in college.

Times have changed. It remains important to be aware of how much that is the case and how it happened. This book is a good reminder.

Reviewed by Jane Sjogren O’Neil, an educator, economist and consultant. This piece originated on the Web site of the New England Board of Higher Education (

Dennis Berkey/Jay Halfond: Cheating in online courses


Without having to miss out on fun, just outsource your test to us, an expert will take it and you will get the awesome grade that you deserve. All at prices you will not believe. How does that sound?”

—Excerpt from one of many results of googling “take my test”

This pitch is more than incredibly crass. It is really just outright pimping of hired poseurs to online students willing to “pay for performance.” With the massive growth of online education, such parasitic companies have sprung up like weeds, presenting a serious threat to program integrity.

In a famous 1993 New Yorker cartoon, a dog at a computer quipped, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” We are still haunted by concerns about whether remote learning can ever be conducted fairly. Of course, the Internet didn’t invent dishonesty. For years, students have been reporting anonymously having cheated and plagiarized – more than 70 percent in most studies. The public believes, along with many faculty, that cheating is easier to do, and likely even more common, in online courses than on campus. While many online leaders agree, they do not see cheating as a major challenge or barrier to program success.

What’s harder – and even more important – than deterring and detecting cheating in online education? Certainly designing interesting course formats that catch and hold the attention of students halfway around the world through all hours of day and night. Distractions abound, and the convenience of asynchronous learning makes it all the more tempting to put off work until the last minute (thus making the siren’s call from cheating companies doubly tempting). Distance creates the illusion of anonymity. Behavioral ethicists have long noted that context matters: In situations where dishonesty is easy to conduct and rationalize, we are far more prone to caving in to temptation.

Thus, designing effective assessments is a critical part of the task of creating distance-learning programs of high integrity. An online program cannot claim to be truly worthy of academic recognition without strong assurance that students are being fairly and effectively assessed in their learning.

Student honesty is a prerequisite for the credibility of online programs. That made it worthwhile for us to better understand its nature. To that end, we designed a survey to learn more about what was being done about cheating in online programs, and how technology itself is being used in solutions. The results were interesting, even somewhat surprising.

Who is actually participating in my course?

From both the survey results and our direct conversations with online program leaders, a frequently stated concern is the lack of face-to-face contact with students. Aside from the concern about cheating, faculty and students miss the experience of direct involvement with one another. One instructor commented, “We feel a professional obligation to know who our students are, and the degree to which they are engaged in our courses, whether or not there is cause for concern about cheating.”

Academic sentimentality aside, what about ringers—can we be certain that the student doing the work is actually the one registered in the course? The federal government weighed in on this, requiring in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 that online programs must have stronger procedures to ensure this than just the use of usernames and passwords, which can be too easily shared.

This is where a legitimate industry has emerged: commercial “test proctoring.” For many years, there have been commercial bricks-and-mortar “testing centers” (Pearson and Prometric centers being the most prevalent) where individuals needing professional certification complete exams under the scrutiny of professional proctors. Customers verify their identities using government photo IDs, drivers’ licenses, passports, etc., before sitting for proctored tests. Online programs began using these centers or otherwise requiring online students to come onto campus to take exams. While commercial testing centers can be expensive, the real cost was in student travel time and inconvenience.

The changing landscape

In the rise of online education with its flexible features (learning anytime, anywhere), entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to provide less expensive, more convenient means of student authentication and test proctoring. An early and still-dominant approach is to use a computer’s webcam and the Internet to enable trained human proctors either to monitor students’ test-taking in real time or to review video recordings of the test session after the fact. In either case, the proctors look for evidence of cheating as well as authenticating the test-taker (typically by comparing the image of the test-taker seen by the webcam with a previously recorded image from the student’s photo ID). Major vendors include ProctorU, Examity and Software Secure.

More recently, a new generation of vendors has introduced fully automated systems making use of “recognition” technologies (facial, voice, fingerprint biometrics, even typing styles) to achieve the same results at considerably lower cost, due primarily to the absence of the human factor. These fully automated solutions are generally more convenient, as there is no need to schedule a proctor, and more scalable as human labor is replaced by algorithms. They typically establish a biometric profile when the student initially enrolls, and then use the computer’s webcam, microphone or keyboard to authenticate (via biometric comparison) the student at later times.

These technologies are also capable of identifying behaviors suggestive of cheating, typically reporting these to course instructors on convenient dashboards, along with the relevant evidence from video recording or screen captures made during the test. Current such vendors include Verificient (ProctorTrack), ProctorFree, Proctorio and BIOMIDS.

Where it all stands now: the survey

In order to reach a broad audience of online leaders, this survey was executed in different ways, through emails and blog links, during its fielding period from January 2015 to May 2015. Participants fromUPCEA and WCET member institutions were asked to give indications, ranging from strong disagreement to strong agreement with statements in six general areas of online education. From the strong participation, including thoughtful responses to open-ended questions, it was clear that the online programs in these membership organizations are under strong, engaged leadership with high ambitions for growth in size and quality. The matters of integrity, cost and convenience to students are of great interest and concern, and programs leaders are open and committed to emerging solutions.

We saw strong appreciation for the challenges of student dishonesty and program integrity, with clear confidence that the problems are manageable. Eight-four percent of the 141 respondents concurred that student dishonesty is a significant issue. Half of all who responded believed that the public thinks dishonesty is more likely to occur in distance learning. But 79 percent did not see this as a difficult barrier, as effective solutions are available.

By far the most frequently cited means of ensuring program integrity, specifically the deterrence of cheating, was reliance on honor codes or clearly articulated institutional policies. Three-quarters of these online leaders felt that establishing, articulating and enforcing such policies provided the essential foundation for online integrity, if not fully satisfactory solutions.

Slightly less than half of the 141 respondents currently use test proctoring, and an additional quarter are considering it. Our impression is, however, that even among users, actual use is erratic and infrequent (such as only for final examinations or other high-stakes assessments). In its formats, the field itself seems not yet to have progressed much beyond the video stage, either as real-time monitoring via webcam or by record and review. We noted that over two-thirds of the respondents indicated being open to considering the newer fully automated solutions for student authentication and test proctoring.

Almost half of those surveyed thought that the major concerns about cheating involved browsing or otherwise using unauthorized notes or other sources during tests. 38 percent thought having another person pose as the student during a test was problematic, and 42 percent were concerned about those who consult others for help during an examination.

When asked to name the most desirable features in a remote proctoring system, a large majority–not surprisingly–cited simplicity and ease of use, a high degree of integrity and reliability and low cost. Cost is a particularly vexing problem, as the addition of an authentication or proctoring system represents an added expense, either to the institution or individually to students. News media  recently reported strong objections from students surprised by new requirements to pay outside vendors to proctor their tests.

Our impression is that low cost, automated solutions funded by institutions are far preferable to having students pay separate test-proctoring fees.

The most interesting results speak to the distinction between video-monitoring and newer fully automated solutions. More than half of the respondents rated as “very desirable” or “desirable” the features of freedom from having to schedule live proctors, student authentication via intelligent software that persists throughout the session and fully automated proctoring with results summarized for the instructor immediately following the test.

Relatively less desirable features included remote monitoring by live proctors who could intervene during a test, automation running locally on the student’s computer, and video-recording for post-test review by live proctors. Anecdotal information gained from direct conversations with online students shows a much greater comfort level with automated (i.e., biometric, AI) proctoring than with having another live person monitoring their test-taking remotely.

In short, instructors, students, and administrators want solutions that are neither distractions nor intrusions–that simply address the concerns effectively, at low cost and without compromising the focus on teaching, learning and assessment.

The future

The roles and nature of online authentication and proctoring continue to evolve. Leaders in online education appreciate the very real concerns about student honesty and want to provide effective, affordable solutions that are respectful of all concerns. The costs are not only financial, but also matters of time, convenience, integrity and preservation of educational priorities. We see an increasing demand by accreditors and public officials for greater accountability for ensuring the identity, active participation and demonstrated achievement by students in online programs. There is also important concern about fraud in programs whose students are eligible for federal financial aid. Recent auditshave revealed huge amounts of federal financial aid awarded to students registered for online courses in which they never actually participated.

Fortunately, there is growing awareness of the tools available for addressing these issues—especially as we evolve from human to automated authentication and proctoring. Greater use of these tools, however, will require the attributes of lower cost, ease of use and demonstrated integrity of the proposed solutions. We see the further development of fully automated systems as a powerful next-generation response, becoming a ubiquitous, nearly transparent part of remote authentication and proctoring.

To achieve this, we will need to help students–even more in online courses than on-campus–to understand that the integrity of their academic credits, certificates and degrees might very well depend on automated measures to confirm their participation and ensure the validity of their assessment. We are not so much replacing Mr. Chips’ personal touch with Big Brother’s remote scrutiny—as ensuring a level playing field for all students, and demonstrating our respect and responsibility for their certified achievements.

Dennis Berkey is the former president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute and former provost of Boston University and is currently the president of BIOMIDS Inc. Jay Halfond is a former dean and currently a professor of the practice at Boston University. The authors thank UPCEA’s Center for Research and Marketing Strategy and WCET for invaluable help in conducting this research. For further information on this study, contact Mr. Berkey at

This piece originated on the Web site of the New England Board of Higher Education (

Mary-Pat Cormier: Avoiding the perils of off-campus housing

slum Liability of higher-education institutions (HEIs) for off-campus housing risks is tricky, focusing on the institution’s role in off-campus-housing arrangements.

If an HEI “assumes a duty” to its students who rely on that duty, it must fulfill the duty with due care. This general rule applies to off-campus safety: For example, if the college offered a limited shuttle bus service to or from off-campus events where it was aware of drinking, it can be liable for injuries to its student struck off campus by a car driven by an intoxicated student returning from an off-campus party. By offering the shuttle service, the HEI assumed duties to students for safety while traveling between the campus and the parties.

In the off-campus housing context, the “assumed duty” theory was determinative in a 2006 Delaware Supreme Court case. A student was assaulted by the boyfriend of another student in the parking lot of off-campus housing. The housing was “offered” by the defendant university to the plaintiff who did not get into a residence. The case went forward on negligence and detrimental reliance claims, because the university “assumed” the duty to exercise reasonable care when it undertook to provide off-campus housing.

Likewise, in 2014, a New Jersey case involved a student injured by a broken window in off-campus housing that the defendant college “arranged.” The plaintiff relied on the duty of care owed by the HEI with respect to the off-campus housing it “arranged.” Therefore, it had a duty to warn the student of the defective window in the off-campus housing unit.

Where a court may “extend” a duty

Courts seem willing to “extend” duties to an HEI, related to off-campus housing, even where the institution has not “assumed” a duty.

In Massachusetts, a landlord near Boston College complained of slander and tortious interference by BC arising from alleged statements by BC to students. The court observed BC could have a duty regarding safety to a student living off campus, because it acted like it had a duty: 1) the college had an off-campus housing office (OCHO); 2) it had a Community Assistance Patrol between students and surrounding communities; 3) BC police responded to off-campus housing disturbances involving BC students; 4) the BC student handbook referred to students’ “responsible citizenship ... in local neighborhoods.”

A 2014 New Jersey case involved the liability of a private school for the violation of fire codes in off-campus housing. The school spun-off its dorms into a separate entity that the court concluded was little more than a legal fiction, and it found the school liable for the violations. The court suggested that a school may be responsible for statutory violations in off-campus housing, where there is a “mandate to liberally construe an Act to achieve the goal of fire safety.” A school may be liable for fire code violations off campus: 1) where there is some affiliation or relationship between the landlord and the school and 2) due to the nature of violated laws—i.e. fire/safety violations.

Risk management concerns

These cases demonstrate a continuum or spectrum of liability exposures for off-campus housing (Fig. 1). Risk management strategies for the liability spectrum, include:

  • Language where the student waives any legal claims that they may have against the HEI arising out of off-campus housing issues, assumption of risk or limitation of liability to gross negligence in written information provided to students by an OCHO.
  • Remove properties on OCHO list after written complaints—with or without investigation of complaints by the OCHO or other office of the HEI to determine whether the complaints are valid;
  • Allow students to rate off-campus housing and landlords in OCHO database.
  • Where a college is “arranging” or “offering” off-campus housing pursuant to a written agreement with a landlord, include indemnification, limitation of liability to gross negligence language in the contract, and “Additional Insured” status on landlord’s liability policies.
  • Educate/empower students on basic landlord-tenant rights and code violations, including fire safety.

Regarding insurance, if a college or university has potential liability for off-campus housing (“assumed duty,” “offered” or “arranged”):

  • Liability policies should contemplate losses taking place at those locations.
  • Liability policies should respond to negligence claims, subject to exclusions, terms and conditions whereas a breach of contract claim or a claim arising out of fire-code, housing-code, or building-code violation would likely not be covered by a liability insurance policy.
  • If a school has reason to know of pre-existing hazardous conditions in off-campus housing, coverage could be barred.
  • If the claim is related to a prior claim or act, there may be no coverage at all, depending on whether the insured knew of the prior matter or provided notice to the insurer.

For an HEI that owns or manages off-campus housing, these same concerns apply to liability policies. Plus, those properties are susceptible to “increase in hazard” theories, which could limit property coverage. (Generally, “increase in hazard” means that where there is an increase in hazard to insured property in the knowledge or control of the insured, insurance coverage will be suspended. If a loss occurs while that coverage is suspended, an insurance claim may be denied.

If the hazard is cured, a loss after the reinstatement is covered. An increase in hazard will generally not be found if there has been merely a casual or temporary change in character of the premises.

An insured’s negligence is not an increase in the hazard, unless it results in a change to the property, use, or occupancy.) Where there is an increase in hazard to insured property, which effects the safety of property–like increase in occupancy in the knowledge or control of the insured, coverage will be jeopardized.

Understanding where an HEI falls on the spectrum of liability exposures is essential to a risk-management strategy.

Mary-Pat Cormier is a partner in the Massachusetts law firm Bowditch & Dewey. This piece originated on the Web site of the New England Board of Higher Education (, on whose editorial board Robert Whitcomb, the overseer of New England Diary, used to sit.

Nicholas Corvino: Push innovation in psychologists' training


We’ve heard the term “innovation” a lot lately. Boston’s Innovation District is booming. Life sciences and biotechnology companies throughout New England are creating innovative approaches to solve some of medicine’s most challenging problems. Companies across New England have “Chief Innovation Officers.”

The universities and colleges around New England are innovating daily. The tools, technology and research developed by these institutions will impact the world for generations to come. At the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (which is changing its name to William James College in May 2015) our faculty and staff also know of the importance of innovation. We practice a craft with more than 125 years of success, but our future will be bleak if we do not constantly think of new ways to prevent and treat mental illness.

Mental illness is a problem  that many people don’t want to discuss, yet it affects all of us. Today, one in four adults and one in five children have a diagnosable mental illness, and one of two Americans will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lives. Suicide will claim one American every 13 minutes, and 12 times that number will make an attempt each day. When this problem strikes your family, and it is highly likely to, you might be among the 70% of parents in this country who cannot obtain care for your child.

These statistics are shocking, yet mental illness is a subject we talk about only after a terrible tragedy, or an act of violence. This should not be the case, as talking about and treating mental illness leads to tangible results. A good deal of research supports the efficacy of . Up to 80 percent of the time, people who avail themselves of treatment will improve. That’s why our students spend about half of their time at William James College working in the field, learning their discipline from experienced professionals and encouraging people to open up about something that society has subtly suggested they should not talk about. However, with 50 percent of Americans likely to develop a mental illness in their lifetimes, we need to do more to start this conversation.

Mental-health professionals need to deliver information and care through electronic means. This involves embracing the latest tools and technologies available to them, and supplementing these technologies with the development of meaningful relationships with each patient. Technology alone cannot end the stigma associated with mental illness, but it can help to abate it.

At the same time, psychologists cannot be the only ones addressing mental illness. They are part of a multifaceted system. Teachers, medical practitioners and attorneys whose work touches the psychosocial lives of their students, patients and clients need to be educated to both attend to and intervene properly around emotional and behavioral issues that they see.

The future of mental-health care is not just in educating mental-health practitioners, but allied professionals to improve the quality of life of those affected by mental illness. These professionals are often the “first-responders” in a mental-health emergency. If they spot signs of mental illness early on, they can help the person suffering from mental illness to address the problems they face before they get out of control.

Conversations about mental illness should also be sensitive to our increasingly multicultural world. Students must be culturally informed and sensitive. Our role as innovators involves thinking about ways to meet the prevention and treatment needs of diverse populations. At William James College, faculty lead immersion trips to Haiti, Costa Rica and Ecuador each year to help students understand the mores, culture and health care system of diverse people. To talk about mental illness effectively, it is imperative to keep the diversity of the target audience in mind at all times.

Embracing experiential learning, having constant conversations about mental illness, educating colleagues in other professions, engaging technology, and encouraging a diverse approach to psychology education are concepts that our field has been slow to embrace. As innovators, we must champion these ideas, while also activating them.

I hope we can embrace the spirit of innovation and practical psychology that William James championed. William James was the founder of American psychology. He was an educator's educator, one of the century's greatest philosophers whose prolific writings and prodigious mentorship profoundly influenced the practice of applied psychology, experiential education, sociology and race relations in this country.

I think James would agree that psychology is about analyzing the past in order to look forward to a brighter future. If we all focus on innovating our field, our future conversations will revolve less around problems, and more on solutions.

Nicholas Covino is president of the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology,  in Newton, Mass., which will be renamed William James College in May 2015. This piece originated on the Web site of the New England Board of Higher Education ().

Sarah Savage/Erin M. Graves: 'Financial capabilities' for college


Community colleges have traditionally responded to the financial needs of their students by removing or minimizing financial barriers to attending. Efforts to make community college tuition free fit with this philosophy. But where efforts to minimize or remove financial barriers to attending community college fall short is in empowering students to navigate the next financial crossroads they encounter, to make well-informed financial decisions that will decrease their vulnerability as students and to position them with the tools for achieving financial wellness as they progress through life.

Empowerment work that helps students manage their financial lives can be described as building their "financial capabilities." The intention of this work is to teach students effective money management, savings and planning techniques but also to provide opportunities to apply what students learn, which is critical to developing positive financial habits. More commonly referenced "financial literacy" remains relevant but is more often associated with knowledge transfer and skill development than application and behavior change. Empowerment work is intended to build students’ capacity.

While engaging with students in this way is new territory for most community colleges, it is an emerging area in which some institutions have already developed expertise and observed significant benefits. To illustrate, the Boston Fed’s Financial Capabilities Group describes the experiences and insights of eight community colleges from around the country in its new Community College Handbook, released as part of the group’s Community College Initiative.

The need to help students develop skills and confidence to manage their financial lives effectively, to provide real ways of doing this and to deliver services when students are most likely to have opportunities to put what they learn into practice is evident from the institutions’ experiences.

In one example, a financial aid staff member at a community college in Florida helped pilot a peer-to-peer effort over concern that while financial aid was relatively easy to come by, students lacked clear guidance on how the aid could best be utilized. The pilot began on a small scale, with three work-study students approaching peers leaving the financial aid office with their refunds, engaging them in discussions about plans for their refunds, and encouraging them to divide purchase decisions into “needs” versus “wants.”

This pilot grew to include a multicampus, well-funded Financial Learning Ambassador Program that delivered timely and tailored guidance on money management techniques through a peer-to-peer model. By identifying times when students are most likely to make financial decisions, staff and students implementing the program could ensure the relevancy and timeliness of content (e.g., demonstrating “shopping on a budget” and setting up resource tables around the time when financial aid refunds are dispersed).

Motivated by similar concerns for financial well-being, community colleges based in New Mexico and Baltimore County sought to address students’ financial needs beyond educational costs and identified comprehensive financial coaching as part of the solution. Staff at one institution observed that in addition to academic challenges, students were already struggling with day-to-day financial needs and therefore less able to plan for the future.

Likewise, many students attending community college in Baltimore County not only live below the poverty level but also lack tools to manage their finances. While one institution offers financial coaching as part of a comprehensive financial stability center model that bundles education and employment services, work and income supports, and financial and asset-building services, the other offers coaching only. The Handbook’s case studies go into depth on how the respective institutions decided which services to offer.

Two community colleges in Oregon and Arizona took a different approach. In an effort to address their students’ unmet financial needs and to help them develop positive financial habits, these institutions offer educational matched savings programs that match student savings at an established rate (e.g., 1 to 1 or greater). After meeting program milestones such as making a specified number of consecutive savings deposits and completing a certain number of hours of financial education classes or workshops, students can use their savings and matching funds to cover approved educational expenses such as tuition, fees, books, and supplies.

These programs have required concerted efforts by external partners, funders and institutional staff. In these cases, administrators and staff members committed to this level of collaboration because they saw the value in not only helping students pay for educational expenses but also to complete the program with much higher quality financial decision-making abilities than when they started.

These case studies along with others featured in the Boston Fed’s Handbook provide examples of new ways of responding to the financial challenges community college students face. The studies demonstrate how previous approaches to minimizing challenges—while well-intended—have not historically enhanced a student’s ability to independently overcome the next challenge they are likely to face.

The case studies describe just a handful of models for building students’ capacity for managing their financial lives. While we hope this might generate discussion and ideas among institutional personnel and potential partners, we also want to emphasize the need for more research to determine additional best practices. This is why the Boston Fed is evaluating a two-year multi-institutional pilot that combines educational matched savings programming, financial coaching and support systems to help students navigate the financial aid process.

We want to know if students who receive services demonstrate stronger educational outcomes, such as higher rates of persistence; and financial outcomes, such as improved decision-making surrounding paying for school and managing their financial lives, versus those who do not receive any services at all. We also want to understand the interplay of these outcomes and the extent to which a model of this kind could be scaled up.

In the meantime, we continue to advocate that community colleges commit to helping their students to manage their financial lives effectively. We have hosted a series of events that brought together expertsin-person and online, and we will be actively engaging community colleges in discussions tailored to their unique institutional contexts and student needs through on-site visits. One of our recent visits to an institution in Massachusetts, for instance, included a broad cross-section of institutional staff, faculty and students, and resulted in a rich discussion of possibilities for applying what we have learned to this institution’s unique context.

Institutions and the students they serve will be better positioned when students are knowledgeable, well-informed stewards of their financial lives and able to navigate financial systems as students, workforce participants, and members of society. The Resource Handbook is intended to make this case, demonstrate actual examples and observed benefits, provide insights into how to achieve effective delivery, and ultimately, to foster a shared belief of how working with students in this way is integral to their educational progress and future financial wellness.

Sarah Savage is community-affairs manager and Erin M. Graves is senior policy analyst in the Financial Capabilities Group at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. This piece originated on the Web site of the New England Board of Higher Education (

Joseph W. Ambash: A stunning opening for union-organizing of private colleges

Editor's Note: New England, with its many private colleges and universities, could be much affected by this case. This came via the New England Journal of Higher Education (

In a stunning and far-reaching decision, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) opened the door to union organizing among faculty at thousands of private-sector institutions, both secular and religious. The board’s majority decision in Pacific Lutheran University (12/16/14), issued in the face of powerful dissents, will inevitably spark controversy and ongoing litigation both about the legality of NLRB intrusion into the operation of religious institutions and the proper interpretation of the “managerial” status of faculty under the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Yeshiva University decision.

Pacific Lutheran University case

The question before the NLRB in Pacific Lutheran University was whether a local of the Service Employees International Union could represent a unit of nontenure-eligible contingent faculty members employed by the university in Tacoma, WA. The university argued that, as a church-operated institution, it was exempt from NLRB jurisdiction and that its full-time contingent faculty were managerial employees excluded from representation under the Supreme Court’s 1980 decision in Yeshiva University.

In reviewing the decision of its regional director, the NLRB took the opportunity to solicit amicus briefs about the broad issues of jurisdiction over all religious institutions and the proper analysis of managerial status of all faculty at private higher education institutions. In its decision, the board articulated new, more stringent, standards that will make it difficult for religious institutions to claim exemption from the National Labor Relations Act and for all private institutions to claim that their faculty are exempt from union organizing. It held that the contingent faculty in question were entitled to organize.

Difficult new test

In Yeshiva, the Supreme Court ruled that the faculty of that institution were “managerial employees” excluded from collective bargaining because they “formulate and effectuate management policies by expressing and making operative the decisions of their employer.” Controversy had existed in applying the Yeshiva standards in the 34 years since that case was decided. Reviewing courts and others had criticized the NLRB for creating confusing standards that gave poor guidance to litigants. Despite these concerns, the overwhelming majority of private-sector institutions in the country have relied on the principles of this case to maintain union-free status among their faculty.

In the Pacific Lutheran case, the board stated its new rule as follows:

  1. Where a party asserts that university faculty are managerial employees, the board will examine the faculty’s participation in the following areas of decision-making: academic programs, enrollment management, finances, academic policy, and personnel policies and decisions, giving greater weight to the first three areas than the last two areas.
  1. The board will then determine, in the context of the university’s decision-making structure and the nature of the faculty’s employment relationship with the university, whether the faculty actually control or make effective recommendations over those areas. If they do, the board will find that they are managerial employees and, therefore, excluded from the act’s protections.
  1. The board interpreted the term “effective recommendations” to mean that those recommendations “must almost always be followed by the [college or university’s] administration,” and that they must “routinely become operative without independent review by the administration.”

In his thoughtful dissent, NLRB member Harry I. Johnson III pointed out the virtual impossibility of satisfying this new standard:

… by increasing the burden of proof for what the board considers to be “effective” recommendations, and by failing to consider the actual, diverse processes of university business operations and governance, the board has raised the bar for establishing managerial status of faculty to an unattainable height, one beyond the reach even of Arete̕̕̕.

Johnson pointed out that the new requirement, that to be effective, recommendations “must almost always be followed by the administration,” is an “overly onerous standard,” which will result in fewer board decisions conferring managerial status on faculty.” In addition, Johnson criticized the board majority’s holding that faculty recommendations are not effective if they are subject to independent review. He pointed out that discounting internal review “seems to utterly disregard the realities of decision- and policymaking in complex organizations.”

The dissent’s observations underscore the uphill battle nearly any college or university will have in demonstrating that its faculty are “managerial” and therefore not subject to collective bargaining.

Jurisdiction over religious institutions

The board also ruled that it will exercise jurisdiction over religious institutions–and hence allow faculty organizing—except where:

  1. The college or university first demonstrates that it holds itself out as providing a religious educational environment.
  1. Once that threshold requirement is met, the college or university must then show that it holds out the faculty members it seeks to organize as performing a religious function. This requires a showing by the college or university that it holds out those faculty as performing a specific role in creating or maintaining the university’s religious educational environment.

As Johnson pointed out in his dissent, the board’s new standard, which requires a religious university to prove that it “holds out” its faculty “as performing a specific role in creating and maintaining” its religious educational environment, necessarily involves the government in the process of evaluating religious beliefs and practices, thereby improperly intruding into the Religious Clauses of the First Amendment. This is particularly true because the majority decision requires a showing that faculty are required to serve a specific “religious function”—something that, of course, can vary widely from religion to religion. In Johnson’s view, if the Pacific Lutheran standard is eventually appealed to the D.C. Court of Appeals, it will be overturned.

Take-away for all private higher ed institutions

The NLRB’s decision—unless and until it is reversed or modified—will force nearly all private-sector institutions to reevaluate their vulnerability to union organizing among their faculty. For institutions that view their faculty as truly “managerial” and not subject to organizing, the decision injects a new era of uncertainty about the fundamental relationship between faculty and administration.

Institutions should audit their administrative structure to determine the extent to which their faculty (whether regular or contingent) make “effective recommendations” which are “almost always” followed by the administration, without review. This standard may be unattainable in the era of modern higher education. Institutions who wish to maintain union-free status among their faculty should also train their administrators how to respond to organizing activities by understanding how union organizing works under the National Labor Relations Act, recognizing organizing activities, and educating faculty to the pro’s and con’s of collective bargaining.

Religious universities likewise should audit their administrative structure to determine whether they “hold out” their faculty as serving specific religious functions.

All institutions should carefully monitor ongoing developments in this critical area.

Joseph W. Ambash is managing partner of the Boston office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, a national labor and employment firm representing management. He has extensive experience representing colleges and universities. He wrote this for the New England Journal of Higher Education, part of the New England Board of Higher Education (, on whose advisory board the overseer of New England Diary, Robert Whitcomb, once sat.

John O. Harney: New England vs. demographics


“The Great Recession and not-so-great recovery applies to all of us.”

That was University of Southern Maine professor Charlie Colgan’s  remark at at the New England Economic Partnership (NEEP) conference Oct. 13 as he noted that Maine was just two-thirds of the way back to pre-recession employment levels.

The  New England forecasts at the Fall Economic Outlook conference were  generally cautiously optimistic, sprinkled with the expressed and implied NEEP mantra: “Having said that, I could be wrong.”

It may be the dismal science, but it’s an experiment you're part of every time you go to work or buy anything.

“What is relatively unique in New England is the region’s demographics—with a rapidly aging population and steep declines in young adult population threatening the region’s workforce skills and education advantage,” said New England Forecast Manager Ross Gittell, chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire.

In Maine, for example, Baby Boomers and their children simply had fewer babies, so all of Maine’s added population in the next 40 years will come from in-migration, but the big sources of that in-migration—Vermont and New Hampshire—are also shrinking, said Colgan. Will productivity increase enough to keep Maine and New England competitive?

Gittell and others joked that given the demography, the region should have focused on under-18 housing instead of over-65 housing.

Colgan noted that ship and boatbuilding have returned to Maine as a major industry (thanks to more destroyers  being built at Bath Iron Works) and natural-resource industries have returned, in a sense, with Lincoln Logs coming back to Maine from China.

Colgan, by the way, is one of the professors let go recently by the University of Southern Maine—part of a higher-education disinvestment story that may say more about the future of the New England economy than any other layoff tracked by NEEP.

He warned that people in Maine see the loss of old-economy jobs such as the impending closure of the Verso paper mill in Bucksport as a tragedy, while they view the laying off of intellectuals at USM, who may be “from away” (though Colgan’s not) as a win for taxpayers.

Among tidbits from the other NEEP forecast managers:

Fairfield University professor emeritus Edward Deak noted that just 60 percent of Connecticut jobs lost during the recession have been regained in the Land of Steady Habits. No one knows whether they are as good as the jobs they’re replacing. What is clear in Connecticut, said Deak, is that “the well-to-do are doing very well.”

Connecticut has the sixth-oldest population in the U.S., though many people over age 65 are leaving the state after retiring. In retail, more purchases are being made via the Internet by working women with young children; fewer at the malls, Deak said, adding that when you look at Connecticut skylines, you don’t see any cranes. It’s all work on old buildings.

Bryant University assistant professor Edinaldo Tebaldi seemed relieved that Rhode Island is no longer first in unemployment; now it’s third. But this “gain” is associated with shrinking of the labor force, and the number of jobs is still below pre-recession levels.

New Hampshire has gone the other direction. Center for Public Policy Studies economist Dennis Delay said New Hampshire had been outperforming New England and U.S. job growth especially in early '80s, but is no longer the superstar. He showed 2012 migrants by higher educational attainments: lots of graduate or professional degrees among the foreign-born, but also many without a high school diploma. Delay noted that New Hampshire ranks high in indicators of home ownership, voter turnout and low welfare costs, but also high in student debt and low in growth of people ages 25-44—so-called wealth-building years.


Vermont economist Jeff Carr noted that about 90 percent of jobs  there lost during the recession had been recovered—second in New England to Massachusetts, which has fully recovered jobs. Vermont is difficult to analyze because the job totals in each sector are small. But that small size adds to anxiety about the loss of a few-hundred highly paid jobs at the closing Vermont Yankee nuke; as well as perpetual concern about IBM because its decisions are made in Armonk, N.Y. Carr also cited the importance of Vermont’s food industry, including craft brewers. (The  same day, the Vermont Foodbank reported that one-quarter of Vermont's citizens don't know where their next meal is coming from.)

Carr joked that he is in favor of financial-services bonuses in New York City and Boston because they boost Vermont's sizable second-home economy.

According to the New England regional forecast, prepared by Gittell, the regional economy will continue to see growth rates below the national average. The NEEP forecast is that total employment growth will average 1.3 percent a  year—and all the New England states are projected to have employment growth below the national average over the forecast period out to 2018.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, opened the conference with a presentation on the U.S. Economic Outlook. In a year or so, growth in gross regional product could go from 3% to 4 percent fueled partly by more housing, including pent-up demand among millennials who have been renting. The economist, and increasingly visible TV pundit, contended that financial aspects of economy are in great shape, especially high-income households. Middle-incomes households are still encumbered by debt, he said, but the high end does most of the spending, “though I’m not arguing economy can flourish without everyone participating,” said Zandi.

Phew. He told of his son majoring in philosophy. (Reminded me of the founder of one of the nation’s leading career-oriented online providers confiding that his child was majoring in sociology on a traditional campus.)

Despite Zandi’s general optimism, the risks include interest rates and a mélange of global issues, Zandi noted, adding that even Ebola could undermine traveling and spending (may not be rational to be so concerned about it, but people are). In response to a question, Zandi said he doesn’t think income and wealth inequality is a big issue in a given year, compared with the lack of labor. No one’s going to be writing a book about income inequality soon, he said. Really?

In his keynote address, former Maine Gov. John E. Baldacci, now at the law firm of Pierce Atwood, cited the importance of energy and exports in the region’s economic future. He hailed natural gas as the foundation fuel, while the region works toward renewables, including solar, tidal and wood.

He tied exports to tourism, noting that the owner of New Balance sneakers was introduced to Maine via ski vacations, where he was treated well, then announced plans to open plants in the state.

In a concluding panel, William Guenther, chair and CEO of Mass Insight, boasted: “Massachusetts has benefited for years from the talent cluster that we have offered business.” He noted, however, that technology-focused jobs are growing in such areas as big data analytics, cybersecurity, and computer sciences, but the state is not producing enough college graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) to keep up with demand from business. "Jobs will always come to where the talent is,” said Guenther.

Jobs also go where there’s energy work. The state and Canadian province with the most explosive job sectors are oil- and gas-rich North Dakota and Alberta.

John O. Harney is executive editor of The New England Journal of Higher Education, the online publication of the New  England Board of Higher Education (, where this column originated.